Samara Private Game Reserve

Samara Private Game Reserve: Our full report

10 rooms in total
Traveller's rating
Excellent (100%) From 2 reviews
All year

Samara Private Game Reserve is located about three hours' drive from Port Elizabeth on the wide open plains of the Great Karoo. Surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, Samara is set within about 283km² and is claimed to be one of the larger game reserves in the Eastern Cape. The environment here is very different from most of the other game reserves in the Eastern Cape. Here you will find two main properties: the Karoo Lodge and the exclusive Manor House.

Karoo Lodge is a beautifully restored farmhouse which can accommodate up to 12 guests. It has three luxury rooms (known as Lodge Suites) in the main house and outside, in the grounds, there are three individual luxurious cottages, called the Karoo Suites.

These separate Karoo Suites are spacious and tastefully decorated with beautifully restored traditional furnishings and fittings. From the outside these cottages are designed to look like traditional Karoo cottages, with corrugated iron roofs and wrap-around verandas which provide welcome shade from the hot Karoo sun.

The Lodge Suites in the main house are ideal for families who wish to be close together. These rooms are decorated to the same high standard as the Karoo suites, however they are smaller and not as private.

As well as the three Lodge Suites in the main house at Samara Game Reserve there is also an indoor lounge, tastefully decorated with African arts and antiques, as well as a library and a bar. There is also a dining room with a large 10-seater yellowwood antique table dominating the room.

Outside the Karoo Lodge is a wide veranda which wraps around the building. There are numerous seating areas out here with large comfy sofas and armchairs, where you can relax and enjoy afternoon tea and homemade cakes while taking in the surrounding landscape and mountain views.

At the Karoo Lodge breakfast and lunch are served either outside on the wide veranda or inside in the smart dining room. There is also a boma outside where dinner is served in the evenings, weather permitting. There is a large swimming pool surrounded by sun loungers and umbrellas, and tennis court for guests who wish to be active. For those who prefer to relax, spa treatments are available in the privacy of your suite.

Some distance from the Karoo Lodge, The Manor House at Samara Private Game Reserve can accommodate a group of up to eight people in four luxury air-conditioned rooms, each with en-suite bathrooms – similar to those in the Karoo Suites at the Karoo Lodge.

There is an infinity pool, which descends into a natural waterhole where game sometimes come to drink – a pool net is put over the pool at night when there are children staying at the lodge.

Both the Karoo Lodge and Manor House offer a variety of activities, including morning, afternoon and night drives around Samara Private Game Reserve in open 4WD vehicles. The night drives offer good chances for spotting elusive nocturnal animals, and we were delighted to see an aardvark – a very rare sighting in most parts of Africa! Guided walks are also possible to track the resident cheetah or to view the Khoisan paintings nearby.

The varied and spectacular landscape of the Samara Game Reserve provides a home for over 60 mammal species including cheetah, kudu, aardvark, giraffe and white rhino. However cheetah conservation is their main objective here and they have a number of collared cheetah on the reserve. It's possible to head out, walking or driving, and use radio-tracking to find these predators, and so Samara offers the visitors good chances to see these beautiful cats.

Our view

Samara Private Reserve offers a high-quality experience: lovely accommodation, tastefully decorated; great food; informed and impressive guiding – during walks and comfortable drives; and some interesting insights into this environment and its inhabitants. It's well worth a visit!


Location: Eastern Cape Game Reserves, South Africa

Ideal length of stay: 3 - 4 nights is ideal in order to explore this vast area.

Directions: Samara is a 3-hour drive from Port Elizabeth. It is 50-minutes from Graaff-Reinet, the nearest main town.

Accessible by: Self-drive

Key personnel

Owner: Sarah and Mark Tompkins – based in the UK.

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: Arriving in the afternoon, afternoon tea is served on the veranda at Karoo Lodge and consists of a variety of different freshly-baked cakes and tea or coffee – although wine's also available!

Dinner was a candlelit barbecue out in the boma which was served on our return from the evening game drive. The starter was lentil and biltong soup served in a small iron pot cooked over the fire (locally called a “potjie").

This was followed by a buffet selection of lamb skewers, fillet steak and chicken served with couscous and aubergine salad and garlic roast potatoes. This was followed by a local desert called malva pudding.

The professionally trained chef at Samara was Quentinn van Rensburg when we last visited. He has his own style of traditional South African cuisine and this is noticeable in the high standard of the food at Samara.

Breakfast at Karoo Lodge is buffet style served on the veranda of the main lodge. The buffet table is beautifully laid out with a crisp white table cloth and a large vase of fresh cut flowers. Freshly squeezed fruit juice, platters of fresh fruit as well as cold meats and cheese are available along with a selection of cereals and yoghurts. A hot breakfast is also available made to order with a selection of eggs, bacon, sausage and toast.

Last time we visited, we sadly didn't stay for lunch!

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Drinks included: Tea and coffee as well as house wine, local beer and spirits, soft drinks and mineral water are included.

Further dining info: Room service is available

Special interests

Family holidays: During family safari holidays at Samara Reserve, children can join e.g. walks, game drives (under 8 in a private 4WD) and DVD-watching. There's much game here but little dangerous! A children's menu, flexible meal times and child-minding are also offered.

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Wildlife safaris: On South Africa's vast Karoo Plains, Samara Game Reserve covers about 283km² of vast open plains and escarpment. It's a very open environment, with populations of giraffe, black wildebeest, white rhino, kudu and duiker. Cheetah conservation is a main objective at Samara, where these cats are tracked and studied.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in South Africa

Walking: Samara Game Reserve has a variety of options for walking in South Africa. Choose from guided bushwalks, the chance to track cheetah, visit Bushman rock paintings in the hills or visiting sites of historical significance.

See more ideas for Walking in South Africa


Attitude towards children: Samara is very child friendly.

Property’s age restrictions: Children of all ages are welcome at Samara.

Special activities & services: Baby-sitting is available at an additional charge of ZAR50. Early dinners can be arranged. There is a special children's menu. A dedicated children's programme is offered daily. There are also activities and walks as well as games and DVD's available.

Equipment: Cots and highchairs are provided

Notes: Children under the age of 8 are not allowed on game drives unless the family has exclusive use of a vehicle (at the time of our visit this was ZAR1000 per vehicle)


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Communications: There is a central phone in the lodge as well as free internet access in the office. The rooms all have a laptop adaptor.

TV & radio: Satellite television is available in the main lounge.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: No

Medical care: The nearest hospital is in Graaff-Reinet – 50 minutes drive away

Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk

Security measures: For guests staying in the Karoo Suites you will need to be escorted to and from your room at night. A manager is always on duty 24 hours a day.

Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are available in the main areas as well as in each room.


Disabled access: In Place

Laundry facilities: Laundry is available at an extra charge

Money: No exchange is available. There are digital safes in each room.

Accepted payment on location: Visa, Mastercard and Amex are accepted at no extra charge. Rands, US dollars, Pounds and Euros are accepted as long as guests agree with the exchange rate used.